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David Mills
By David Mills on November 09, 2017

In Business Marketing, Always Opt for Growth First

Reach the audience you need more quickly... and then keep them.

Opening new services, locations, and any kind of business growth requires an investment balancing act. You ask, "which marketing spend will create a return most quickly?", and,"how can I minimize risk and reduce the “burn rate” as the business grows?" Reaching break-even isn’t the goal, since total profit at break-even is zero. The goal is to get beyond break-even to profitability.  

You can break the challenge into two smaller groups: 1) preparing to deliver the product or service in the location you’ve chosen, and 2) getting customers to purchase at new levels. The area in which you probably already know your stuff is the service or product - if you don’t know you’ve probably planned to get training or vendor support as you get going. The big unknown is always getting customers quickly.

We learned in our history courses thatNo battle plan survives contact with the enemy” (German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke). That quotation has been aptly applied to business, and most recently to the lean startup movement (think Steve Blank) to remind us that no business plan survives first contact with the consumer. Of course, we’re smart enough to add services and products that have already been proven by others, but the customers in our community for our business just aren’t that predictable. So, how do we ensure we bring enough customers to our new service, product or location?

And, the options are endless. There are at least 5,000 technology options for marketing. And like the process of planning our new service line or location, we want to build thoughtfully. This leaves us with two competing options:

Option 1: Start from the ground up.

Starting from the ground up means building a whole new website, creating a new brand, creating collateral, using email nurturing, and crafting a content marketing strategy. Inbound marketing alone will provide a gradual but effective ramp up and increase the customer growth over time. These customers will be highly qualified and likely to stick around since they found us because they wanted what we offer. The obvious challenge is one of time, and it does take some time for inbound to build momentum. The longer we go without enough customers, the bigger the hole we have to dig out of to break-even and make a profit.


Option 2: Pay advertisers to borrow their audience.  

That is the essence of advertising: they have an audience from which they will sell you a fractional piece.  “For a small fee,” you can rent some portion of an audience’s attention.  but there are some big problems with this approach. First, there is no certainty about how well the interruption approach (make them stop reading, listening, watching to see our ad) will work with your audience. The growing presence of ad blockers should tell us much about how much people feel about being interrupted while viewing content online. And if it is not an integrated digital approach, you'll have a hard time tracking just how well it works. You can spend a lot of money before you find a combination that brings enough customers, and sometimes you don’t even know which advertising group actually created the movement. Second, since this is a rented audience, you only get to keep a relationship with the ones that actually became customers. Anyone who is part way down the road to becoming your customer is lost the moment that you stop paying for ads. 80% of those who visit your website aren’t ready to be customers yet.

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But are these actually the only two choices?  

Is there a third way that builds enough foundation, finds an audience in a predictable, cost effective way? And a way that has a method to nurture and keep not only the new customers, but all the people who are on the journey toward becoming customers too?

The answer comes when we combine the right marketing practices into a Growth First approach.  We put these things together:

  1. Build just enough. Growth driven website design, which comes from agile development practices, is about building what’s essential first and then continuing to optimize over time. You don’t get bogged down in a 6 month web build.
  2. Find an audience quickly. Marketing approaches that utilize the most effective media available including social networking and video can find and win a large audience quickly.  
  3. Connect it all to inbound marketing to keep and nurture the audience. While tracking all of the elements (include ads), building lists and managing them in a CRM, you can deliver personalized follow up that keeps customers and wins more who are in the buyer’s journey.

This approach is how we work with businesses that are ready to grow. To find out how this approach fits your business, talk with us.

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Published by David Mills November 9, 2017
David Mills